The Multisite Mistake Nearly Every Church Makes

I love being a part of the multisite church movement. And it’s certainly a movement!

According to the most recent research I’ve seen, this movement in the church has grown from 100 to 8,000 since the year 2000. That’s explosive growth. All the cool kids are doing it, right?

Of course, with any rapidly growing phenomenon, there will be issues and problems to navigate. The multisite movement certainly isn’t immune to issues. We should probably come back to this topic a few more times, but for now, let’s take a moment and address one specific tension between existing locations and newer campuses.

For background, I am a Campus Pastor. We call it Lead Pastor, but that distinction deserves its own post. I’ve been leading at Woodstock City Church, a campus of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, for nearly seven years. In this time, we’ve experienced a great deal of change in attendance, meeting locations, and staff just to name a few. All along the way, one of the greatest tensions we’ve navigated was learning to act our age.

Here’s what I mean specifically.

A church typically decides to launch a new campus when they desire to spread their influence through their model from an existing church that is most likely over capacity. That’s a mouthful. To say it more simply, churches launch campuses to replicate their DNA in a new location. Hence, the new campus wants this DNA replication to be successful. They hope to take what’s working in one place and recreate it elsewhere.

Here’s the problem: The planting location and the new campus location are at different life stages. I know that seems obvious, but hang with me a moment.

The planting, mature church has been in business for some time. They have developed a full repertoire of offerings, services, and experiences. They have student ministry and children’s ministry and groups and care classes and more. Basically, they are “mature” as a church. They didn’t start that way, but that is their reality now. And, rather than the mission and vision being the core DNA, it’s easy for a church to see their offerings as who they are. So, when the new campus is preparing to launch, there is a natural desire for this new location to also provide similar offerings. After all, it’s in their DNA, right?

We would never ask a toddler to behave like an adult, but we are constantly trying to get “toddler” (or newborn) campuses to look, feel and act like their parent, planting church. One of the most important things a multisite church can understand is the dynamic of evolving maturity.

Acting your age means:

1. The new campus might not initially offer what the planting church offers.

2. The new campus might need some leadership autonomy.

3. The new campus might require a different staffing model and structure.

4. The new campus might need maturation time and a maturation plan.

5. The new campus might need some space to experiment, learn, and grow — to mature.

6. The new campus might need an ongoing, relational connection to the planting church.

After all, the DNA isn’t the programs, but the mission and vision. Replicating that in a new location might require some different thinking and programming anyway.

I’m going to come back and discuss each of the above in more detail soon. If that is of interest, go ahead and subscribe so you won’t miss any of these conversations. 

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